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That’s the average debt a 2016 college grad carries, breaking the $35,000 debt record set by the class of 2015. Don’t let that college debt drag you down for years! Instead, learn the best ways to pay off student loans quickly.

Time matters when you’ve taken out loans for education. After you graduate or leave school, student loans tie up a chunk of your earnings, so you have less to spend on housing, transportation, health insurance, and fun. But loan payments can hurt you all the way into retirement, too. A recent survey found that people with student loans participate in employer-sponsored retirement plans at a lower rate than those without debt.

The good news: if you need to invest in your education with student loans, you have options to help pay debt faster.

  1. Apply for interest-free loans.

    Many students rely on traditional loans to cover all or part of college costs. In a subsidized loan, which is awarded based on financial need, the federal government pays for the interest accrued while you’re in school. Another type, the unsubsidized loan, requires you to bear the entire cost, including the principal and all accrued interest.

    In contrast, you can apply for an interest-free loan to cover part of your college costs. With this type of loan, you pay back only the amount originally borrowed. There’s no interest to pay, which can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars over the repayment period.

  2. Make larger payments to reduce principal quickly.

    This is a technique sometimes used by homeowners to pay off mortgages faster. Paying extra money toward your loan every month will reduce the amount of principal you owe. If you’ve taken out a traditional loan, this will also reduce the amount of money you’ll pay toward interest.

  3. Get budget savvy.

    You can find plenty of ways to shave down expenses so you can put more money toward college debt:

    • Choose an apartment or home below your means or take on roommates to cut housing costs.
    • Cancel cable TV.
    • Cut weekly takeout and restaurant trips in half.
    • Work a side hustle. If you’re not currently working in the field in which you graduated, consider freelancing in that field to earn extra money and build experience.

    Place any extra dollars you make or save into a jar or savings account, and then put that money toward your loans. Will your friends laugh at your penny-pinching ways? Maybe. But you’ll be the one laughing when your student loans are paid off quickly and those pals are still stressing out about their debts.

  4. Apply salary raises to your loan payment.

    Ideally, you’ll get a job that offers regular raises; instead of using those increases to buy a new TV or take a vacation, apply part or all of that salary bump toward student loans. After all, you’ve grown accustomed to budgeting without that extra cash, so why not put it to work so it reduces your debt more quickly?

The decisions you make now regarding student loans will affect your finances—and your stress levels—for years to come, even into retirement. Take control of student debt so you can start putting your money back into your pocket.

Learn how to apply for an interest-free student loan through Lancaster Dollars for Higher Learning.